There is a giant spotlight on Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott heading into 2022. The 3x Pro Bowler is coming off a rocky season and fans are frustrated with his lack of production given the massive contract he is on. To be fair, the RB1 was injured for most of the year, as we found out after the season that he was dealing with a partial PCL tear.
However, he swore up and down that he was healthy throughout the entire season despite being unable to deliver the type of athleticism that matched his paycheck. It feels like every offseason the Cowboys swear up and down that Elliott is healthy and has his best stuff, and then the trajectory goes the opposite way quickly. This time of year seems to be the prime time for the media and coaches to start their “this player is looking better than ever” talks, which fans are well aware of.
However, reporters aren’t the only ones talking about it. Elliott’s teammates are backing him up, too. Last week, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott told reporters that when Zeke is healthy, “there’s no better back in the NFL.” Head coach Mike McCarthy mentioned during OTAs that Elliott was hitting 22 mph on the radar gun in practice.
Now, another one of his teammates is hyping him up. In an interview with Micahel Fabiano of Sirius XM Fantasy Sports, Cowboys defensive tackle Neville Gallimore said that his teammate is “in the best shape” he’s ever seen him and “flying around the practice field.” Many are replying to the below tweet saying this is the exact same thing they heard before the 2021 season.
Cowboys’ Neville Gallimore says teammate Ezekiel Elliott is “in the best shape” he’s ever seen him in
Talk aside, Elliott has a lot to prove in 2022. It was essentially financially impossible for the Cowboys to cut him this offseason. But now, the front office has a bit of an out in his contract after 2022. If the RB1 doesn’t prove that his $30.08 million cap hit was worth it, he may be wearing a new uniform in 2023. Next year, the Cowboys could save about $5 million on cutting the former first-round pick.
The other thing for him to remember is that he and his stellar backup are competing for contracts at this point. Tony Pollard, who beat out Zeke in most statistical categories this season in far fewer snaps, is set to be a free agent in 2023. If Pollard continues to prove himself on the field, he may be both a cheaper and better option for the Cowboys.
The reality is that since 2019, Elliott hasn’t been the same player who earned that massive six-year, $90 million contract. He’s been visibly slower and looked more hesitant than he’s been in the past. This season will be a make-or-break one for No. 21. And he’s going to have to prove it with his actions on the field rather than the words from his teammates.